As you work to keep your diabetes under control, it is subtly changing your eyes. These small changes put you at greater risk of experiencing eye disease and possible vision loss. Here is how to spot potential eye problems caused by your diabetes and how they can be dealt with.
The longer you have diabetes, the more at risk you are of developing glaucoma. This eye disease is caused by a restriction of the drainage of fluid from within your eye. This results in the slow buildup of pressure in the eye. If untreated, the pressure can restrict blood flow to your retina. Gradually, the retina stops responding to light and you develop vision loss. Your vision will become blurry and you may see halos of light around objects.
Regular visits to your optometrist to check for glaucoma let you start early treatment of the pressure buildup before it can damage the retina. Medication, eye drops and surgery are used to relieve the pressure before it becomes a problem.
You are also more at risk of getting cataracts with your diabetes. With this disease, the lenses in your eyes become foggy, restricting the light that can get through them. Your vision becomes darker, shapes appear blurry, and it is harder to focus your eyes on objects.
With early stages of cataracts, your ophthalmologist may recommend reading glasses to make your vision clearer. As the cataracts progress, a visit to an eye surgery center is needed to remove the old lenses and replace them with artificial ones. While replacing the lenses does improve your vision, it also puts you more at risk for the next eye disease, diabetic retinopathy.
This is a term that covers two types of disease of your retina that are caused by diabetes.
- Nonproliferative retinopathy - This is the most common form for retinopathy. Small blood vessels in the back of the eye swell and allow blood to pool in them instead of passing through. In severe stages of this, fluid begins to leak out of these vessels onto the back of the eye. This causes blurry vision and makes focusing difficult. If the fluid buildup is extensive, you can lose part of your vision. You'll notice dark shapes and gray areas in your vision. Medication and laser treatment can stop and reverse the effects of the leaks.
- Proliferative retinopathy - After years of the small blood vessels being blocked, new blood vessels may form on the retina. These have weak cell walls and allow blood to leak out onto the surface of the retina. These weak vessels also produce scar tissue, which pulls on the retina and can cause it to detach, resulting in blindness. Laser treatment to dry up the leaked blood, and reattaching the damaged retina are treatments that will restore part of your vision.
As long as you have active diabetes, see your eye doctor for regular checkups. All of these diseases can be detected early, and treatment can be started before the symptoms become worse and you start to lose your vision.